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Temple Priest Burnt Alive in Rajasthan Village, Two Arrested

JAIPUR, Oct 9: The priest of a village temple who was allegedly set afire by five persons following disputes over land encroachment in Rajasthan’s Karauli district, died in hospital. The police said two persons including the main accused had been arrested and search was on to nab other culprits.

Claiming that the accused wanted to encroach upon the land of the temple, the police said the accused allegedly poured petrol on Babu Lal Vaishnav in Bukna village and set him afire on Wednesday. The 60-year old priest of the local Radhe Gopal temple was shifted to the SMS hospital in Jaipur in a critical condition. He succumbed to burn injuries on Thursday night.

In a press statement, Karauli police said the priest had earlier complained to the police that one Kailash Meena and his family were trying to “grab” the 15 bigha land belonging to the temple where Vaishnav and his family were engaged as priests. The priest’s family was also tilling the temple land, the police statement added.

“According to the complainant, on Wednesday morning, Vaishnav had an argument with Meena and his associates over some construction that the latter was carrying out near a hill. Later, the accused allegedly set the 60-year-old on fire,” Prakash Chand, Additional Superintendent of Police, Karauli, said.

“Preliminary investigation, however, suggests that the land where the dispute took place belongs to the government. A case has been registered five persons, including Meena,” Chand said. Karauli superintendent of police Mridul Kachawa said on the basis of his statement before his death, a case of attempted murder was registered which was now being converted under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code. “Two accused including Kailash Meena have been rounded up,” Kachawa said.

As the incident sparked of immediate political wrestling between the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP in the state, the chief minister Ashok Gehlot issued a statement sternly condemning the incident. “The death of Babu Lal Vaishnav is unfortunate and condemnable. We do not have place for such acts here. The state government stands by the family of the deceased. The main accused has been arrested and a case is underway. The accused won’t be spared,” Gehlot tweeted.

Targeting the state government over the incident, the opposition BJP charged that the law and order situation has worsened in the state under Congress rule. “There is no fear of law among criminals who are roaming freely under Congress rule. People are living under fear while criminals have no fear. This is the situation when the chief minister himself is holding the home portfolio,” BJP state president Satish Poonia told reporters.

The former chief minister Vasundhara Raje tweeted, “The way the crime graph is increasing in the state, it is clear from it that women, kids, elderly, Dalit, traders, nobody is safe here. The Congress government in the state should wake up from its deep sleep and give those guilty strong punishment and provide swift justice to the family.”

Countering the BJP accusations, the state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra pointed out the “swift actions” taken by the police in arresting some of the accused including the main culprit.

(Manas Dasgupta)